MAY 09,2013 - MAY 09,2013 (1 DAYS)
City of London - Modern and Historical Architecture:
I recommend you to do what no guidebook, no other web site or normal person was daring to offer you: start at the Bank Square (see below: never in cold or windy days) and explore, in-depth, 3-4 streets, from the 9 streets that converge on the Bank junction area: Prince, Threadneedle, Cornhill, Lombard, Mansion House, King William, Walbrook, Queen Victoria and Poultry. From this selection - do not miss: Threadneedle (!), Cornhill, Lombard (!), Mansion House and Walbrook. I highly recommend to end with the Threadneedle / Cornhill / Lombard streets - continuing this itinerary to Bishophsgate and many other architectural masterpieces in the City of London. If you don't stick with our itinerary - end with King William Street and head to the Monument or the Thames. I suspect that our offer will consume half of your day.
Start: Bank tube / DLR stations.
End : Tower tube / National Rail / DLR stations.
Weather: Only in acceptable weather. Avoid this route in rainy, windy or cold days. The Bank environs and the southern parts of the City of London are very cold when the temperatures are low. We end our route in the St. Katherine Docks (a pure contrast to the urban City) - and, there, you must face a smiling sun.
Duration: one busy day.
Orientation: half-a-day for exploring the Bank and its adjoining streets, continuing northward into the heart of the City, exploring many famous, architectural monuments/buildings and heading southward to the Thames two banks. Prepare your camera - you'll shoot tens or, even, hundreds of photos.
Note or warning: The Bank underground station is such a maze. The worst designed station on the network with very poor crowd flows and very long walks to change lines. This is probably one of the most confusing stations as it has like 9 different exits. You have to walk long distances to find your line. Additionally, it's sort of a conjoined twin with the Monument station. Even though Monument is several streets away the connection is just a little stretched. Avoid interchanging at this station at all costs. A change from the Central line to the District line (which is really at Monument) actually involves a hike which has many a tourist wondering if they'll ever get out. Moreover, It's not even a flat route. There are stairs/escalators that go up and down several times. Get out from the underground station ASAP.
The junction itself is also a maze - but this trip blog (the only one that) will make order in what you'll see outside.
Another warning: Avoid coming to the Bank in a windy day. Very unpleasant to walk or stay in the Bank square when the wind blows. It is quite cold in the Bank square and the adjacent streets. Leave this itinerary to warmer days.
Tip: The best time to go through the Bank is at the weekend. Take the time to walk around what now becomes an almost ghost town, while the markets sleep for the weekend. The buildings old and new are fascinating.The City itself is another story. Explore it only during weekdays.
Bank Station numbered Exits:
These are numbered clockwise around the Bank Concourse.
1. Poultry, Cheapside and Guild Hall, 2. Princes Street, Threadneedle Street and Bank of England, 3. Royal Exchange, Stock Exchange and toilets, 4. Cornhill, Leadenhall Market and Lloyds, 5.King William Street and Lombard Street, 6. King William Street, Lombard Street, Fenchurch Street, The Monument and London Bridge 7. Mansion House, 8. Cheapside, Queen Victoria Street, 9. Walbrook.
The City is the oldest part of London and was already 1,000 years old when the Tower of London was built. It is uniquely independent from both Westminster and the Crown, has its own local government, the Corporation of London, and today is mainly a financial centre. It also has its own police force which is independent of the Metropolitan police, whose jurisdiction nevertheless surrounds the City.
Bank junction is also the location of one of London's busiest tube stations, Bank. Bank and Monument are interlinked London Underground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR) stations that form a joint, public transport complex (under the length of King William Street). The stations have been linked as an interchange since 1933. Bank station, opened in 1900 at Bank junction, named after the Bank of England, opened in 1900. Monument station, named after the Monument to the Great Fire of London, opened in 1884.
The Bank junction from the 2nd floor of the Royal Exchange:
Bank junction is a major road junction in the City of London. Today, it is, mainly, the historic and financial centre of London. Traffic is controlled by traffic lights and give-way lines. The majority of people passing through the junction are doing so on foot.
Eight or nine streets converge on the Bank junction area. (clockwise from the North):
Prince's Street (northwest, towards Moorgate), (the picture below: NatWest building, 1 Prince Street, built at 1932):
Threadneedle Street (northeast, towards Bishopsgate),
On the left side of Threadneedle Street is the Bank of England. Founded in 1694, the first purpose-built building on Threadneedle Street, completed in 1734 to the design of George Sampson, was first extended by Sir Robert Taylor and then rebuilt by Sir John Soane behind massive screen walls in his masterpiece of 1788–1827. Soane’s work was swept away in Sir Herbert Baker’s bombastic rebuilding of 1921–39, in which he raised seven storeys of offices behind Soane’s perimeter walls. At the north-west corner of this large site, Soane’s elegantly arranged Tivoli Corner columns survived Baker’s onslaught. There is public access on the east side from Bartholomew Lane to the Bank of England Museum (free admission), where Higgins Gardner in 1986–8 reconstructed Soane’s top-lit Bank Stock Office of 1792–3:
On the right side of Threadneedle Street is the Royal Exchange. Sited at the physical and functional heart of the City with the Bank of England across Threadneedle street and the Mansion House opposite. This is the greatest of the City’s nineteenth- century exchanges, built to the designs of Sir William Tite (1841–4). This is the third exchange on the site, following previous halls of 1566–70 and 1667–71. Originally open, the arcaded central courtyard was roofed in 1883. General trading stopped in 1939, replaced by specialist exchanges elsewhere. It was converted by Fitzroy Robinson in the 1990s into an upmarket shopping centre with some interiors preserved together with an important group of paintings of 1895–1922 around the walls of the ground-floor courtyard. These are largely obscured by the shops. We recommend entering the building and climbing to the 2nd floor (see later) The intrusive security tends to inhibit investigation. The sculpture (1842–4) in the west front is by Richard Westmacott Junior: Commerce holding the Exchange Charter. In front, Aston Webb’s Great War (WW1 - not WW2 !) memorial was unveiled in 1920. About the statue of the Duke of Wellington - see later when we browase, again, quickly the main buildings around the Bank junction.
Tower 42 and on its left the NEW Stock Exchange:
Threadneedle Street, back side of the Royal Excange:
Cornhill Street (east, towards Leadenhall Street),
The St. Michael church, with the exception of the tower, was completely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The present Church was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren between 1669 and 1672. Interior of St.Michael:
Do not miss the Gilbert wooden carved doors at 32 Cornhill (Cornhill Insurance):
The Jamaica Wine House, St Michaels Alley, Cornhill. Excellent interior, good service and the beer is well looked after. One of London’s oldest pubs, the Jamaica Wine House - known locally as The Jampot - has a fiery history. Literally. Indeed, the coffee house that originally stood here was damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the current building is a 19th century public house. On the wall of the current building of the Jamaica Wine House visitors can read the memorial plaque attesting that “Here stood the first London Coffee house at the sign of the Pasqual Rosee’s Head 1652.”:
Lombard Street (southeast, towards Gracechurch Street, leading to King William Street),
View of Lombard Street from the Bank. On the left - St. Mary Woolnoth Church:
St. Mary Woolnoth is an Anglican church in the City of London, located on the corner of Lombard Street and King William Street. The present building was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, built 1716–27:
Lombard Street from the glass doors of St. Mary Woolnoth Church. Open: Mon - Fri: 09.30-16.30 (but, quite frequently, it is closed without explicit note):
Trade coronation in the front of a building from the period of Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria, 1902, in Lombard Street - which was the financial centre of London before opening of the Royal Exchange in the Bank junction:
This sign of the grasshopper appears at 68 Lombard St and marks the site where Sir Thomas Gresham (c1519 -1579) lived. He was an English merchant and financier who was a trusted agent of Queen Elizabeth I and founder of the Royal Exchange. Gresham's original building was destroyed in the Fire of London:
Walk until the end of Lombard Street. You won't regret it. View southward from the end of Lombard Street (junction with Gracechurch Street) to the Monument and the Shard:
Mansion House Street (south, runs to the east of Mansion House. Mansion House Street is the short street at the front of Mansion House (which connects Poultry, Queen Victoria Street and the Bank junction). The Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London, built in the 18thC in Palladian style. Superb reception rooms and banqueting hall. Large gold and silver vaults. Note: don't mix it with the Mansion House tube station which further to the west (on Queen Victoria Street).
In-house guides only permitted to conduct tours around the house. Only groups admitted, no individuals. Guided tours information: when: every Tuesday at 14.00 (Lord Mayor's Diary permitting). How long: one hour. Meeting point: the A-board near the porch entrance to Mansion House (this is in Walbrook, exit 8 from Bank tube station). Cost: 7 GBP adults, 5 GBP concessions. You pay the guide in cash. How to book: arrive at the meeting point by 13.45 for a 14.00 start. Visitors are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours cannot be booked in advance. The maximum number for the tour is 40 persons. It is well worth the time if one can fit it in your schedule. Remember that this building is only open for an excellent hour tour on Tuesdays. One can view five or six beautiful rooms used for government functions and enjoy many fine paintings (see "Art Collections" below).
The first floor had a roofless courtyard (later covered to form the Salon, the entertainment space) and the great Egyptian Hall. The second floor has a ballroom and private apartments of the Lord Mayor and family. The third and fourth floors contain meeting rooms and staff rooms. The cellars have storage space and once held prisoners' cells, reflecting the former use of the Mansion House as the Lord Mayor's Court.
Mansion House Art Collections: The guided tour of Mansion House, basically means a tour of the extensive 17th Century Flemish Art collection.
The Lute Player, Frans Hals, 1624-1628:
A Young Woman Sewing, Nicholaes Maes, 1655:
King William Street is a road in the City of London, the historic nucleus and modern financial centre of London. It runs from its northern end at a junction with Lombard Street by the church of St Mary Woolnoth, southeast to Monument junction, where it meets Gracechurch Street and Cannon Street.
North end of King William Street looking towards Monument station:
Rothschild Bank, 1 King William Street:
Offices Building, 33 King William Street:
Walbrook (south, towards Cannon Street), a narrow street just behind Mansion House.
St Stephen, Walbrook is a church erected to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren following the destruction of its medieval predecessor in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Opening Times: on weekdays only, from 10.00 until 16.00. It is usually closed at weekends. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672. The first domed church in Britain. The plain exterior of the church hides a Classical interior. Surprisingly, a beautiful church interior. The white arc of the dome spins the viewer round:
Don't miss the Walbrook Building (seen also from Cannon Street):
Queen Victoria Street (southwest, towards Blackfriars), starts at the Mansion House Street at Bank junction and ends at the New Bridge Street and Victoria Embankment.
City Magistrate’s Court, No 1 Queen Victoria Street: A building designed by John Whichcord, built 1873–5 as the National Safe Deposit and including four storeys of armoured safe deposit vaults underneath, partly converted to cells for the new courtrooms (1988–91).
Poultry (west, towards Cheapside). Poultry is a short street, an eastern continuation of Cheapside, between Old Jewry and Mansion House Street, towards Bank junction.
No.1 Poultry: This wedge-shaped plot with fronts onto Poultry and Queen Victoria Street was the site of a major planning dispute – the highpoint of opposition to wholesale redevelopment. A group of High Victorian buildings were demolished to make way for a development instigated by Lord Palumbo, who wished to create a new square – Mansion House Square – with an eighteen-storey tower by the Architect Mies van der Rohe (designed 1962–8 but delayed by lease acquisitions). This scheme was rejected in 1985, and the strongly articulated, stridently postmodern, colourful, wedge-shaped building, with playfully arch detailing, by James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates, was erected 1986–98. There are good views of the City from the rooftop garden:
The main Buildings around the Bank Square:
The Royal Exchange - across the road from Bank tube station:
Also in front of the Royal Exchange is a memorial to those Londoners who served and died in World War I:
I recommend that you'll enter the Royal Exchange building and pave your way to the aristocratic cafe' in the 2nd Floor. Marvelous view over the Bank junction:
From the ground floor of the Royal Exchange, through the building pillars - you can also a nice view of the square:
Outside the main entrance to the Royal Exchange is a statue of the first Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley), on horseback and overlooking Bank junction. The statue was inaugurated in year 1844:
Standing on the northeast corner of Bank junction is the Bank of England, headquartered on Threadneedle Street since 1734:
(photo from 2010):
Behind the Bank of England is Tower 42 (the high, light blue, glass building). Behind the Royal Exchange is "the Gherkin" top edge:
Former Threadneedle Street head office of The American City Bank, which became London, City & Midland Bank:
On the south side of the junction is Mansion House. Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. It is a combination of palace, town hall and law court complete with its own lock-up. Its prime role is as the official residence of the City's Lord Mayor, who holds office for a one year term. The building was designed in the 1700's. It is used for some of the City of London's official functions, including an annual dinner, hosted by the Lord Mayor. The Guildhall (covered under another couple of trips around the City of London) is another venue used for important City functions.
Regus House, Poultry Rd #1:
After exploring the Bank Square and 4-5 adjecent streets - we return to the Bank square and head north-east along the Threadneedle street until its end.We are going to explore several famous architectural highlights in the City. A few (minor) sections of this route overlap sections of "A rainy day in the City and the Docklands" trip.
From there we slightly turn left to the Bishopsgate. We continue until No. 22-24 - where The Pinnacle tower is still in construction. The Pinnacle will be on your right and Tower 42 on your left. The Pinnacle is a skyscraper that was expected to become the tallest building in the City of London and the second-tallest in both the United Kingdom and the European Union, after The Shard (also in London). Its construction began in 2008 but is currently on hold subject to re-approval issues. Work started in September 2008 but has stalled since March 2012. It is planned to get height of 290 m.
From the north-west corner of The Pinnacle you can see an impressive view of the Gherkin. The Gherkin was designed by Norman Foster and built during the years 2001–2003. The building is one of the city's most widely recognized examples of contemporary architecture. Its formal address is: 30 St Mary Axe and was previously known as the Swiss Re Building. The Gherkin was completed in 2003 and opened in 2004. The Gherkin height is 180 m. It stands on the former site of the Baltic Exchange, which was extensively damaged in 1992 by the explosion of a bomb placed by the IRA:
Tower 42 is, presently, the second-tallest skyscraper in the City of London and the seventh tallest in Greater London. Its former name was the National Westminster (NatWest) Tower, having been built to house the National Westminster Bank's international division. Its formal address is 25 Old Broad Street - but its full grandeur can be clearly seen from Bishopsgate (near the junction with Undershaft). The Tower 42 was formally opened on 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II. Its height is 185 m. It was surpassed by two towers in Canary Wharf: One Canada and Heron Tower. In 2011 it was bought by a South African businessman. You'll admire its size and height from further places along our route.
Continue walking along Bishopsgate northward and cross the Camomile Street (on your right) and Wormwood Street (on your left).After 2-3 minutes walk you'll see, on your left, at Bishopsgate 121 the Saint Botolph-without-Bishopsgate Church and Gardens. St Botolph was the patron saint of the travelers. The building is Classical in style, of red brick with stone detailing;
Adjoining the church is a charming pub, The White Hart (actually, on the cross-roads with Liverpool Street:
Return southward along Bishopsgate and turn left onto Camomile Street and right onto St Mary Axe in order to approach and appreciate again, the Gherkin tower:
Walk along St Mary Axe, southward (The Gherkin on your left) until its end, until it meets the Leadenhall and Lime streets. This junction is marvelous, breath-taking and, here, you get one of the most iconic sights of London - the Lloyds TSB complex, The Gherkin, 52-54 Lime Street Building, Willis Building and 122 Leadehall Building - all around you (feeling like a grasshopper...). Several facts on the Lloyds TSB building. The building takes its name from one Edward Lloyd who founded a coffee shop on this site in 1688, from where maritime insurance was conducted. The building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on November 18th 1986. Address: 1 Lime St, London. Construction started: 1978. Opened: 1986. Floors: 14. Architects: Richard Rogers, Mike Davies. Architecturally, the Lloyd's Building draws heavily on architect Richard Rogers' earlier Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. The Lloyds TSB was the first in a trio of City office buildings designed by Richard Rogers; it was followed by 88 Wood Street in 1998, and the Lloyd's Register of Shipping Building in 2000 (The Strand). Architectural style: High-tech architecture. The building's extravagant design led to numerous awards. The Lloyd's Building is one of the finest examples of British High-Tech architecture and has been described as a 'mechanical cathedral':
At the heart of the building is a huge atrium, 14 floors and 76 meters tall. On the ground floor of the atrium sits the Lutine Bell, salvaged from the French frigate La Lutine which surrendered to the British in 1793. The bell is rung once for good news and twice for bad, and the expansive atrium carries the sound to everyone in the building.
On 122 Leadenhall Street stands the 225 m tall Leadenhall Building which is currently under construction and very close to its completion. It is designed (again) by Richard Rogers. The Leadenhall Building is adjacent to the Lloyd's building, also designed by Rogers. Let the sights, of this grandiose junction, talk for themselves:
52-54 Lime Street is a skyscraper on the corner of Lime Street and Leadenhall Street, opposite the Lloyd's building and adjacent to the Willis Building. Upon completion in 2017 the building will be 190 m. tall, with 38 storeys. It is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. The skyscraper is being built for the Berkley insurance company.
The Willis Building is in 51 Lime Street. It stands opposite the Lloyd's building and is 125 m. tall, with 26 storeys. The Willis Building was designed by architect Norman Foster. The skyscraper features a "stepped" design.Construction started 2004. Completed - 2008.
It is recommended to walk the Lime Street and soak its special, contemporary atmosphere (see "A rainy day in the City and the Docklands" trip). From Lime Street head BACK north (on Lime St) toward Leadenhall St. Turn left onto Leadenhall St. Turn left onto Gracechurch and Leadenhall Market will be on the left. Again, Leadenhall Market is covered in the "A rainy day in the City and the Docklands" trip. Leadenhall Market is one of London’s hidden gems. It is a beautiful covered Victorian market with elegant Victorian roof, colorful (a lot of red) stalls selling flowers and fresh food and covered cobbled streets. There are also shops, pubs and restaurants in this arcaded territory (open only during weekdays !). If you like photography, its a charming place to visit. Surrounded by modern high-rises, this indoor market looks more like a Dickensian film set.
Head southwest on Gracechurch St towards St. Peter's Alley. Turn left onto Eastcheap. Turn right onto Fish Street Hill and turn right onto Monument St. The Monument to the Great Fire of 1666 will be on the right. Opening Hours (Summer/Winter): 09:30 - 18.00/17.30 daily. Admission: Adults £3, Concessions £2. It stands on the point of where The Great Fire of London is believed to have started. Great for a rather different perspective of the city and for photos of St. Paul Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Shard if you have a good zoom camera. Only 310 steps of spiral staircase that lead the way to the top. It gets increasingly narrow towards the top so be careful ! The cheapest bird-eye view - you can purchase in London:
The 20 Fenchurch skycraper (10 minutes walk from Gracechurch Street - to the east, turn left) from the Monument:
Continue southward to the Thames - arriving to the Grant's Quay Wharf and London Bridge. Grants Quay has been recently improved (2009) with new trees, a lawn area, topiary hedges, granite planters and additional seating and planting improvements.
You get a wonderful view of The Shard from Grant's Quay Wharf:
Walk a bit to the west from the London Bridge to the west to watch the Fishmongers Hall. The Fishmongers company was established to provide regulation and quality to the selling of fish. Today the company is more involved with Fisheries and Fishing, as well as charitable work and education. The company is a "Livery Company": a special kind of trade association:
Return to the London Bridge and walk a bit to the east (with your face to the river - to the left) to see the Billingsgate Market. A Victorian building that was originally Billingsgate Fish Market, the world's past largest fish market (moved to the Isle of Dogs in the 1980s). Nowadays, an hospitality and events venue and it remains a major London landmark (private property):
From the Billingsgate Market you can a wonderful view of the Hays Gallery and HM Belfast on the southern bank opposite:
We stay on the northern bank of the Thames and continue eastward. It is 5 minutes walk to The Tower of London (covered in a special trip). From here, take another magical view of the City (20 Fenchurch skycraper):
But, more sensational are the close views to the Tower, the Tower Hill and the Traitors Gate from the Northern Bank. Do not miss this stretch of the Thames. Remember: we are outside of the The Tower premises:
The Tower Bridge and the Tower Cannons:
The Tower Bridge from St. Katherine Docks:
Our final destination is the very scenic St. Katharine Docks. It is a 5-10 minutes walk from the Tower Hill, further eastward, along the Thames, past the Tower Hotel. The presence of warm sun is mandatory to your visit here. Very surprisingly, unpopular touristic site, but, still, rated as one of the top 3% of the London sites - and still, very accessible and close to the central core of London. One of London's best kept secrets. Now in use as yachting marina. Restaurants, shops, wonderful heritage buildings along the harbor, and moored here 120-180 of yachts and boats (from all around the globe) in the heart of London (including: glorious cruisers like the British Royal Barge of Queen Elizabeth II, the boat that carried Winston Churchill's body down the Thames. Note: The Thames Clipper service also stops at St. Katharine Docks as well.
You can walk back to the Tower Hill complex of stations and catch even more photos of the Tower. Try to watch the Tower Hill from the south-west corner of it - In the afternoon hours, when the sun(...) is in the west. This one taken from the promenade south to the Tower Hill: